The impact of threat appeals on fear arousal and driver behavior: a meta-analysis of experimental research 1990–2011
Carey, Rachel N.
McDermott, Daragh T.
Sarma, Kiran M.
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Carey, Rachel N. McDermott, Daragh T.; Sarma, Kiran M. (2013). The impact of threat appeals on fear arousal and driver behavior: a meta-analysis of experimental research 1990–2011. PLoS ONE 8 (5),
The existing empirical research exploring the impact of threat appeals on driver behavior has reported inconsistent findings. In an effort to provide an up-to-date synthesis of the experimental findings, meta-analytic techniques were employed to examine the impact of threat-based messages on fear arousal and on lab-based indices of driving behavior. Experimental studies (k = 13, N = 3044), conducted between 1990 and 2011, were included in the analyses. The aims of the current analysis were (a) to examine whether or not the experimental manipulations had a significant impact on evoked fear, (b) to examine the impact of threat appeals on three distinct indices of driving, and (c) to identify moderators and mediators of the relationship between fear and driving outcomes. Large effects emerged for the level of fear evoked, with experimental groups reporting increased fear arousal in comparison to control groups (r = .64, n = 619, p &lt; .01). The effect of threat appeals on driving outcomes, however, was not significant (r = .03, p = .17). This analysis of the experimental literature indicates that threat appeals can lead to increased fear arousal, but do not appear to have the desired impact on driving behavior. We discuss these findings in the context of threat-based road safety campaigns and future directions for experimental research in this area.